Why We Whack Our Skillets on Concrete

In the Test Kitchen, we have a go-to method for simulating years of use in your home kitchen.

Published Jan. 10, 2023.

On the ATK Reviews team, we really put our products to the test. If we’re evaluating cookware, we’ll cook dish after dish to compare performance and handling. We’ll analyze its composition, structure, and design, and consult with scientific experts.

But you might be wondering, how do we determine how something is going to hold up over years of use in your own kitchen?

We have different methods that we use depending on the piece of equipment we're testing—for nonstick skillets, we cook eggs in a dry skillet back-to-back, stopping either when they begin to stick or when we have made 50 consecutive eggs. (It's one of the reasons that the Our Place Always Pan didn't impress us.)

But for stainless-steel skillets, we have a tried-and-true method we always go back to. And it's a lot more fun than frying 50 eggs in a row.

Sign up for the Well-Equipped Cook newsletter

Shop smarter with our ATK Reviews team's expert guides and recommendations.

Picture this: An empty skillet heats on the stove. A deep metal bucket of ice water sits on the floor. A temperature probe shows the water at exactly 32 degrees. Another shows the pan about to hit 500 degrees. 

As it hits 500 F, we plunge the hot pan into the ice water. The pan sizzles. The water steams. Drama.

This is thermal shock—sending material from one temperature extreme to the other. 

Then, to add insult to injury, we take that pan outside and whack it three times on concrete.

Lisa McManus plunging a hot skillet into a bucket of ice water.A closeup of a hot skillet plunging into a bucket of ice water.

The thermal shock test evaluates skillets' resistance to warping.

Who’s going to do that to their pans?

Maybe you wouldn’t. But our “abuse testing” simulates years of use—speeds up the clock—so that we can see how that pan’s going to hold up. (As for thermal shock, people do this all the time when they stick a hot pan into cold tap water.)

Skillets are workhorses, and nobody’s going to baby them. And if they can’t take the heat—as the saying goes—we don’t want them in our kitchen or yours. If you’re going to spend money on a pan, you want it to last. This is especially true for the often pricy fully clad pans (which are worth shelling out the big bucks for!).

Equipment Review

The Best Stainless-Steel Skillets

Our longtime favorite 12-inch pan by All-Clad faces new competition. Is it still the best choice?
See Our Winner

In these tests, we’ve seen pans fall apart, crumple and warp, get deeply dented, and have their handles become loose. But some? You can barely tell we were so terrible to them. You have to hunt for any dents, turning the pan this way and that in the light.  

That’s the cookware we’ll recommend. And that’s why you’ll keep seeing us shocking and whacking pans.

This is a members' feature.